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Of Rajasthan’s 30 Internet Shutdown Orders, 25 Issued During Gujjar Protests: Internet Freedom Foundation

Among the several revelations about the internet shutdowns in Rajasthan, the response to the RTI filed by the Internet Freedom Foundation showed that out of the 30 shutdown orders, 25 were issued during the protests by the Gujjar community in the state.


As per IFF’s analysis, the 30 internet shutdown orders issued by the Jaipur Divisional Commissioner also followed a “copy, cut, paste format” identical to the 26 orders issued by the Udaipur Divisional Commissioner during the protests by the Adivasi community.

Following the multiple shutdowns, the IFF, a Delhi based non-governmental organisation that advocates for digital rights and liberties, had filed an RTI to determine the Rajasthan government’s compliance with the Supreme Court’s directions in the case of Kashmir-based journalist Anuradha Bhasin vs the Union of India.

Understanding Telecom Suspension Rules

Although it is not illegal to suspend the internet in India, such suspensions must follow legal procedures and the orders must be issued under Section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act, read with Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety) Rules, 2017. This gives the union or state government the permission to suspend internet services “on the occurrence of any public emergency” or “in the interest of public safety” and requires recording of the reason for the same by the competent authority.

When Bhasin filed a writ petition with the Supreme Court against the Union of India, which resulted in partial restoration of communication services during the 2019-20 Jammu Kashmir lockdown after the revocation of Article 370, the court had interpreted the provision to hold that orders suspending internet services must be published as they “affect people’s lives, liberty and property, and publication will enable aggrieved persons to challenge the orders.” The court also pointed out that the law requires an explanation on why the shut down is necessary, unavoidable, and the least intrusive remedy for the situation.

IFF’s Analysis of Response to RTI

Explaining the “identical” orders, the IFF mentioned that all the orders followed the same template wherein a bureaucrat recommends suspension of internet services citing ‘law and order’ concerns followed by the Divisional Commissioner expressing their satisfaction with the recommendation without providing any reasons, and then the Divisional Commissioner shutting down the internet services. This pattern, according to the IFF, “strongly points towards a non-application of mind.”

While the law requires reason, the orders rely on a subjective apprehension of disruption to public safety and lack any explanation of why internet shut down in an entire district is the least intrusive method of tackling the public safety concerns, says IFF.

The 25 internet shut down orders mentioned above were issued between October 30 and November 11, 2020 when the Gujjar community (Rajasthan’s ethnic agricultural and pastoral community) staged protests demanding 5% quota in government jobs and inclusion of a state reservation law in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.


The remaining five shut down orders were issued on September 25, 2021 and implemented the following day, when the Rajasthan Eligibility Examination for Teachers (REET) took place. The shut downs were ostensibly due to an “apprehension of fake news and false rumours on the internet of the paper being leaked disrupting public safety.”

According to another report by the IFF, 18 out of the 26 internet orders issued by the Udaipur Divisional Commissioner were issued between September 24 and 28, 2020, when the Adivasi community decided to hold an indefinite protest for recruitment of Adivasis in government schools in areas where the community is in majority. The internet suspension was also accompanied by a violent crackdown by the Rajasthan police, killing two Adivasi protesters and arresting several.


Back in April 2018, the Rajasthan government had announced the REET for recruitment of teachers to government schools. A total of 5,431 vacancies were available at the time in schools in Tribal Sub Plan areas. At the end of the recruitment process, 1,167 seats within the general category were left vacant which, according to the government, was because many candidates from the Scheduled Tribes did not meet the cut-offs set by the government. Calling this reason “arbitrary,” several activists demanded that the unoccupied seats be given to Adivasi applicants.

According to the IFF, it is notable that all the districts where the internet was shut down were Scheduled Areas where tribal communities are in majority.